The Plurality of Us and Them: Performing Loyalties and Rivalries

This chapter deals with selfing and othering practices that are expressed and performed via the football club. These processes of selfing and othering go well beyond football fandom: they concern people’s ethical ideas, political views and socio-cultural backgrounds. The construction of selves and others intersects with many parts of a fan’s everyday life. Hence fans do not talk about a singular ‘us’ and a singular ‘them’ but about multiple ‘usES’ and multiple ‘themS’ that are flexible and shift in different situations and contexts - including the definitions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ regarding the fan loyalty to a club (cf. Szogs 2016a, b). Nevertheless, when it comes to narrations about the loyalty to a club, fans often narratively construct their loyalty as a singular and nonflexible phenomenon. But, in further narrations and particularly in fandom practices it quickly becomes clear that football loyalties and also football rivalries are

[...] never unified and, in late modern times, increasingly fragmented and fractured; never singular but multiply constructed across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices and positions. (Hall 1996b, p. 4)

© The Author(s) 2017 61

N. Szogs, Football Fandom and Migration, Football Research in an Enlarged Europe, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-50944-0_4

In this quote, Stuart Hall is originally referring to the concept of identity, but it also works perfectly well to define the concepts of rivalries and loyalties. In this book I work with a definition of loyalties and rivalries as fluid, plural, flexible, competing and processual constructs (Bauman 2000; Hall 1996a). Working with the popular term and concept ‘identity’, even when it is defined as a flexible construct, has been under critique for its rigour and predetermining character (cf. Binder and Hess 2011; Collier and Ong 2005). To a certain extent this critique also applies to the concepts of loyalties and rivalries as they are constructed categories that encase the danger to determine and naturalise the support to one club. This is why a critical reflection on these concepts is the central focus of analysis in this chapter.

Selfing and othering practices occur on different levels and in different contexts in fans’ lives. In interviews, fans were using narratives about their loyalty to a club and about the rivalry to the other club as a strategy to (re)present themselves. Stuart Halls writes how we use language to represent ourselves:

In language, we use signs and symbols — whether they are sounds, written words, electronically produced images, musical notes, even objects — to stand for or represent to other people our concepts, ideas and feelings.

(Hall 1997, p. 1)

For this research, I consider the football clubs Fenerbahqe and Galatasaray as signs and symbols which the fans that I interviewed used to represent their ‘concepts, ideas and feelings’. Thereby, it is for a start not important whether the interviewees deliberately do so in interview situations, as an active narrative strategy, or not. Cornel Sandvoss has discussed, analysed and conceptualised this kind of ‘self-reflection’ in fandom practices. From a psychoanalytical approach, Sandvoss emphasises that when a fan talks about the fan object he or she is indeed talking about him- or herself (in his approach not deliberately):

[T]he relationship between fans and their objects of fandom is based on fans’ self-reflective reading and hence narcissistic pleasures, as fans are fascinated by extensions of themselves, which they do not recognize as such. (Sandvoss 2005, p. 121)

Sandvoss’s approach will help to understand and analyse the narratives of the different interview partners, if we understand Fenerbah^e and Galatasaray as ‘extensions of themselves’. When we analyse what fans are telling us about their club, we can find out something about the way they want to represent themselves in general and in the interview situation in particular (cf. Lucius-Hoene and Deppermann 2004a, p. 168). These narrations and indeed constructions of self are processes of sub- jectification that are performative and happen in a nexus of agency and limitation. Judith Butler sums up performativity in subjectification processes:

There is no subject prior to its constructions, and neither is the subject determined by those constructions; it is always the nexus, the non-space of cultural collision, in which the demand to resignify or repeat the very terms which constitute the “we” cannot be summarily refused, but neither can they be followed in strict obedience. It is the space of this ambivalence which opens up the possibility of a reworking of the very terms by which subjectivation proceeds — and fails to proceed. (Butler 2011 [1993], p. 84)

Butler thereby underlines the restrictions of subjectivation but also makes clear that because of its performativity there is possibility for agency. Applying this performativity to the following analysis in this chapter, we will see how on the one hand Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e fans perform loyalties and rivalries within the framework of citation. On the other hand, the narratives and practices of Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e fans reveal the subversive notion in loyalty and rivalry performances.

There are millions of Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e fans in both Turkey and in other parts of Europe, which makes it nearly impossible to generalise about the supporters of these two clubs - also for the fans themselves. Thus, to a certain extent fans can create their ‘own’ fan loyalty by projecting their values and beliefs on the club. The narratives about the club image are deeply entangled with constructions of belonging such as being left-wing, nationalist, educated, Turkish, Viennese and so on. Therefore, it does not matter whether the characteristics that fans attri?bute to Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe are ‘facts’ or not. By referring to Roland Barthes’ ‘myths’ (1957) and to the research strand of semiotics, Cornel Sandvoss emphasises that ‘facts become relative within the metanarrative of the myth, which in turn is reflective of the fan’s values, beliefs and image of self.’ (2005, p. 135)

Nevertheless, a football club has to represent extremely diverse and manifold signs and symbols so as to capture all of these different ‘extensions’ of the self. If a fan projects his or her own image of self onto the club and then consequently talks about this self-image when talking about the club, the club must be open for a variety of ‘encoded’ meanings (Hall 1980). As a consequence, this is only possible as long as other representations do not become overwhelmingly powerful. Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe do have official marketing strategies and an official image which they try to sell to their fans. Striking examples for this were noted during visits to the Galatasaray museum and the Fenerbahqe museum in Istanbul in summer 2013. In the museums, club history got mystified (Fenerbahqe) and glorified (both clubs) by linking it to political events in Turkey and by displaying trophies of all kinds. The central fan shops and stadia of both clubs send the message of a modern, European, professional, successful, and financially stable club that can compete with any other European club or league.

Brigitta Schmidt-Lauber writes about the images of football clubs which in general claim to have a specific ‘style’ that entails specific values, beliefs and ways of life for their supporters (2008, p. 20). In the case of St. Pauli, a German club from Hamburg, or in the case of Be§ikta§ (see later this chapter), this ‘style’ is not rigid or inflexible either and it is questioned by its fans, but the celebration of the left-wing image of these clubs that is enforced by marketing strategies, by the ultra groups, media and fans in general predetermines the attributions to the clubs strongly. I argue that it is different with Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe. In interviews, Galatasaray was often linked to an elite culture and Fenerbahqe to a bourgeois or middle-class culture which is consistent with the most popular myths of the club (cf. Dmowski 2013, p. 339), but only by fans that identified with these categories.

Similarly, these dominant readings were also referred to by those fans of the respective opposite club that wanted to distance themselves from the rival by referring to these narratives - when they explicitly did not want to identify with them. The official images of Fenerbahqe and Galatasaray about traditionalised myths of their founding and fan base codetermine the ascriptions that fans attribute to a club. But the mass of supporters in various places in Europe and beyond with a diversity of contexts, such as a diasporic context, already make the official images less important and dominant. Thus, how fans describe their club can be considered an assemblage of all these different contexts and junctures.

This chapter comprises four analytical parts preceded by an introduction to Gerd Baumann’s approach to selfing and othering practices (2004). His approach is helpful to understand the multi-layered processes of rivalry and loyalty constructions among Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe fans in Vienna. Although it is to some extent a structuralist concept, it still encompasses an adaptiveness which underlines the context-related flexibility of these processes and fan performances. In the concluding remarks of this chapter, I will then get back to Baumann to analytically summarise the different selfing and othering practices of the various subsections.

In Sects. 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5 the analysis focuses predominantly on the narratives about loyalty and rivalry constructions and entailed practices. The performances of rivalries are thereby strategies that are used to deal with everyday matters in the lives of Fenerbahqe and Galatasaray fans in Vienna. Thereby football fandom practices and the very talking about fandom can be (presented as) a strategy of doing home and doing kinship, of self-positioning or of subversion of hegemonic discourses. The key question of these subsections is in which contexts fans can, want to or are expected to perform loyalties and rivalries as inflexible entities on the one hand or as plural or shifting social constructions on the other hand.

The analysis of the contexts of when it becomes ‘legitimate’ to support other teams or even the rival is most insightful to understand the flexibility of loyalties and rivalries. The narration of inflexibility particularly occurs when supporters (re)tell their fan biography. Retrospectively, most of the fans that I interviewed (re)constructed their own fan career as something fateful that happened without any struggle or doubt (cf. Sandvoss 2003). The subsections will therefore look into the narrations of ‘becoming a fan’ and particularly also on its continuation today. This is not always a linear process, it can be part of biographical and in this case migration related junctions and cleavages. The analysis of these loyalty constructions will lead to insights about the categories, narratives and hegemonic discourses that supporters find important to include into their (fan) biographies, (self-)presentations and (re)presentations in the context of the interview.

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